To many of us who stayed awake to watch Obama deliver his inaugural speech and feel the jubilation by millions of Americans, one question comes to mind: has Hong Kong missed something that America has got? I am not a fan of American policies, nor the Americans' wasteful lifestyle. But from Obama's inaugural speech, he has embraced some emerging values that are worthy of our rethink.
Here are some abstracts from his speech:
"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics." - Why are we still stuck here in divisive politics, absorbing much of our energy from innovation and problem-solving?
"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories" – As professionals we know how much (or how little) importance science and technology have in the arena of public policies here, and we know that energy revolution is clearly not a priority of our policy-makers.
"And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." – Look at the Audit Commission's report and check whether transparency is improving; for those who need further proof just pay a visit to the empty offices of the Education Bureau's new headquarters in Kowloon Tong.
"The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good." – Can we be a world-class city whilst having the highest Gini coefficient among Asian cities, and one-quarter of our children living under poverty?
"And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it." – How can HK gain respect in the world when our Chief Executive shies away from international responsibilities, such as pretending to be part of the developing world under Kyoto Protocol?
There is another line we must not miss. Before the inauguration this is what Senator Dianne Feinstein said in her welcoming remark, "The freedom of a people to choose its leaders is the root of liberty."
Is this what HK missing and is this the root of our incapacity?
May I wish you all a happy Chinese New Year and a new-found will to take on the challenges ahead!
Ir Albert Lai
22 Jan 2009
My recently published articles:
Albert Lai and Kelvin Sit, Research Officer of the Professional Commons, attended a radio programme hosted by Ng Ming Lam on 17/1/2009, to explain their proposals on the government budget.
Full text of the Budget Proposal Report by the Professional Commons: